Whoosh! Issue 12 -
September 1997


IAXS Research Project No. 331
By Gregory R. Swenson
Copyright © 1997 held by author
4597 words

           Physical Needs (05)
           Safety and Security (06)
           Belonging (07)
           Self-Esteem, Achievement, and Competence (08)
           Self-Actualization (09)
           Memory One
           Memory Two
           Memory Three
           GABRIELLE (32-35)
XENA (36-38)
           Fill In Our Own Pyramid
           Change Ourselves
           END THOUGHTS (45-46)

Hippolyta's Girdle
Discovering Maslow's Hierarchy In Amazon Culture


[01] After watching Hercules And The Amazon Women (Bill L. Norton, 1994), those of us who have studied Greek mythology, might ask where is Hippolyta's girdle? Reputed to give the wearer super strength, Hercules was supposed to steal it as one of his labors. Hercules And The Amazon Women, however, is a post-modernist tale and like other post-modernist works the writer expects the viewer to come to his or her own conclusions through inference. In other words, we are expected to find the girdle ourselves. So where is it?

[02] We begin our search by asking what strength did Hercules get from Hippolyta? We find a twofold answer. First, Hippolyta gives him the secret of Amazon self-actualization. Second, she gives him the secret to a woman's heart.


[03] How well a culture succeeds can be measured in the quality of the individual it produces. Current thinking has encapsulated it in the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child."

[04] The educational community has adopted a scale to measure the success of an individual's development and they call it, Maslow's Hierarchy. Abraham H. Maslow (1908-70), an American psychologist and a leading exponent of humanistic psychology, developed a theory of motivation describing the mechanism by which an individual progresses from basic needs (such as food) to the highest needs of what he called self-actualization, which is the fulfillment of one's greatest human potential (Motivation and Personality, Harper & Row, New York, 1970). It is possible to use this scale to measure the quality of individuals turned out by Amazonian culture in Xena: Warrior Princess. There are five stages in Maslow's hierarchy and they are usually represented as a tiered pyramid.


Physical Needs
[05] The lowest tier is called physical needs. Physical needs are very basic and include water, food and sleep.

Safety and Security
[06] In the next tier we find safety and security. Modern urban schools sometimes have a great deal of difficulty providing this for students. Extreme measures such as gun detectors or drug sniffing dogs are often used to eliminate these dangers.

[07] The third tier is called belonging. Developing a group of peers you trust, being a part of a team, and belonging to a specific religion are all examples of belonging. (This can be an extremely powerful need and explains why so many people tune in to watch Xena: Warrior Princess. It is a pleasure to belong to the community of fans who cherish the friendship of Xena and Gabrielle.)

Self-esteem, Achievement, and Competence
[08] The fourth tier includes self-esteem, achievement, and competence. Self-esteem is how well we feel about ourselves. It is gained through achievement and competence. Achievement is measured a number of ways: education, years employed, children, and so on. Competence is gained through acquisition of skills (Xena often says, "I have many skills"). Skills may be gained on the job, through sports, hobbies etc.

[09] At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization. Being self-actualized means that one knows that he or she has incorporated all portions of the pyramid into one's thinking processes. This is called metacognition. Generally speaking, few individuals achieve true self-actualization on a permanent basis. It rather becomes a goal to be constantly sought. (Anyone we know?) This makes for great literature. People who achieve self-actualization on a full time basis often become legends.

Also be sure to check out my cousin, the Food Pyramid!

Maslow's Hierarchy in its traditional pyramid form


Waxed or shaved, you decide.

Hercules bound and brought into the Amazon camp

[10] Lysia's patrol has managed to kill Iolaus and capture Hercules. Dragged through the Amazon village, Hercules is brought before Hippolyta. In an attempt to explain Amazon culture to Hercules, Hippolyta probes his memories of what he has learned about the nature of women:


We are not beasts, Hercules. We are





Just because we are not the kind of

women you'd like us to be. Make no

mistake, these are women. Women who will

not be controlled by men. Not beaten

down, not bought and sold like oxen. Men

will never dominate these women.


We don't dominate you. We protect



Oh I see. You protect us.


Because you are weaker.


Am I? I don't think so.


You got an advantage...at the moment.


Yes. I suppose I do. What are you

looking at Hercules? Do you find me

attractive? My legs, my breasts, my

lips? Your friend is dead. I have you in

chains. You hate me. And yet you still

desire me...You're pathetic. There's no

point in talking to you anymore. You'll

never understand what makes a woman.


You'll never understand what makes a

man. You don't know anything about me.


Oh but I do. I'll show you what makes a


Is it *really* better to light one candle rather than curse the darkness?

Hippolyta with the pesky candle of regression

[Lights candle of regression. Blows smoke in Hercules' face.] HIPPOLYTA Go back. Go back and live your life again. Let's see who you really are.

Trust me, baby, I'm a doctor.

Zeus bouncing his baby boy around

Memory One


And women. Let me tell you, there is

nothing like a beautiful woman. Believe

me, women are the sweetest journey you

will ever take. But don't be afraid.

Take a lot of them.


Did you see Hercules? That's who you

are. The son of your father. Women mean

nothing to him or to you. Women are just

play toys to be used and then thrown

away. Your father, all fathers teach

this to their sons on the day that they

are born and it doesn't change as you

grow older.

Just wait until I get my own show!

The Young Herc as a Young Turk with his side kick the Young Iolaus (TM)

Memory Two


When you fight, fight to the death.

Cultivate hardness because a man is

stone. If you have any emotions left,

grind them to the dust. Emotions are for

the weak, girls. And most of all

remember you'll be known by the enemies

you make, so make good ones.

[Hercules tells the stone lesson to the

villagers of Troy as they attempt to

retake their city from the Blue Cult in

Hercules and the Lost

Kingdom (Harley Cokeliss, 1994)]


There again women are nothing in your

world. They're weak, polluted with

emotion. But what great thing is it to

be a man? Hammered into killing tools.

No feelings except for enemies. No

strengths but those to destroy. Tell me.

When does a man bring life into the

world? When does a man deliver anything

but death?

Memory Three

This is what happens when you tell bad jokes, Iolaus!

Hercules and Iolaus, fighting back-to-back.


Be careful Iolaus.


I'll be reckless. Careless dies.

Reckless kills. Ow!

ROAR! Oops, wrong show, sorry.

Iolaus, emoting

[IOLAUS is cut. Chases Amazon responsible.] HERCULES No Iolaus. Stay at my back. HIPPOLYTA You have no idea what women are. But you've had you first lesson today. IOLAUS Hercules, it's a woman.

No, I'm not your Amazon chick!

Ilia annoying the heck out of Iolaus because she happens
to be a woman
[ILIA stabs IOLAUS.]

Falafel's food strikes again!

Hercules thinking things over
[Hercules is visibly affected. We see him curled up in a fetal position shaking with emotion. His adherence to the old ways dies. He is born again.]


[11] Hercules surprises Hippolyta. He is willing to change. Hercules has noticed the change in Iolaus as he nears the date of his marriage. He has heard his mother Alcmene tell him that he will change as his marriage approaches. Hippolyta inadvertently confirms willingness to change as the key to a woman's heart:


It's not my intention that you should

suffer needlessly. It's not a female

trait. You loved Iolaus. I believe



He was my best friend. We went through a

lot together. I never should have let

him come along.


You surprise me. Seems some how a spark

of humanity survived inside you. Could

you love a woman as you loved Iolaus?


It's different with women.


Why? Women need respect and loyalty just

as much as you do. But you'll never

understand that.


What if I try to change?


You can't change. You're a man.


If I learned to be the way I am, I can

learn to be another way.

[12] Hercules learns his lesson so well that he tries to teach to the Gargarenthian men


Things are going to be so much better

now that women are coming back.


That's if the women are coming back.


What do mean? They're going to want

more. I mean what woman wouldn't?


Yeah, they'll be back. And think how

much better it'll be. Our clothes will

be mended. We'll eat better. It'll be

back to the way it should be.


What's wrong with you? Those attitudes

are what got you in trouble in the first

place. The women aren't the ones who

have to work around here. It's you men.

All of you.


Hercules is right. Things went the way

they did last night because we talked to

them. We listened to them.


That's right you did. And if you want

Gagarentha to keep from being torn apart

again it's the only way.

[13] It is Hercules who gives these two secrets, self actualization and willingness to change, to Xena. Together they compose Hippolyta's girdle of strength.


[14] Not all of us have a Hercules to pass the secret of the girdle on to us. Rather achieving full self-actualization is dependent on the cultures in which one lives. Yes, that is right, cultures. Cultures include family, school, work, recreation, city, state, national, world, and now the internet. A specific culture sets the tone for how we are to behave with respect to others in and outside that culture. The Xena production staff attempts to portray several different cultures on Xena: Warrior Princess. Those cultures are portrayed via characters and it is the characters which make up Amazonian culture that seem the most rational, the most educated, the most self-actualized.

[15] In an article from Grollier's Multimedia Encyclopedia Charles Wagley says this about culture:

The American anthropologist Ruth BENEDICT viewed cultures in terms of a dominant personality type that is favored in each culture and is revealed in the nature of its social organization, methods of training children, ceremonial customs, religion, and mythology. In her book Patterns of Culture (1934) Benedict contrasts what she calls a Dionysian culture pattern (frenzied, aggressive, and violent) of the Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia with an Apollonian culture pattern (orderly, calm, and noncompetitive) illustrated by the ZUNI Indians of the southwestern United States. Although criticized for its somewhat intuitive approach, Benedict's work did draw attention to the connections that exist between personality and culture.


[16] According to Benedict, a strong personality like Hera could affect the generation of self-actualized individuals. Furthermore, the two given examples from the encyclopedia excerpt sound like the Gagarenthan Amazons and the village they hold in thrall. In Hercules And The Amazon Women, Hera tries to keep the Gagarenthan Amazons from becoming self-actualized, as a method of controlling them. She may dole out little snippets of self-esteem but never enough for Hippolyta and the other Amazons to become fully self-actualized. Hera is a roadblock to "cultural diffusion."

[17] Hercules, However, is an advocate for cultural diffusion. Hippolyta helps Hercules understand a woman's self-esteem. He in turn helps the men of Gagarentha understand this. This in turn helps to heal the schism between the two cultures.

[18] Wagley says:

Elements of culture are spread from society to society through direct or indirect contact among groups, a process known as diffusion...Moreover, not all aspects of a culture diffuse with the same rapidity and ease. A steel axe is more efficient than a stone axe and, when available, will be borrowed at once by the culture into which it is introduced. A political system, a religion, or an ideal of what is beautiful, however, is more resistant to diffusion than are material aspects.


No, I'm not your Amazon chick either!

Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, future network angel

[19] Under the influence of Hera, Queen Hippolyta tries to balance her duty to the Amazons and her duty to Hera. Eventually, each respective duty becomes mutually exclusive. Hera has helped Hippolyta fill in every corner of Maslow's pyramid except for self-esteem and security. Hera tries to rule the Amazons directly. She gives Hippolyta orders on a daily basis. Hercules eventually short circuits Hera's connection to Hippolyta by convincing Hippolyta that the Gagarenthan men are not a threat. He makes it possible for her to think and act for herself. She become fully self-actualized.


Xena.  Hmm, I like the sound of that.

Lysia, a Bolshie kind of Amazon

[20] Duty, obeying orders, and the Amazonian way come first for Lysia. Any personal life gets put on hold. After a successful night on the town, she still follows her queen despite the aftereffects of her liaison with Zeus:


Mount up. Full battle gear. Battle arms.

We attack Gagarentha again. This time no

man to be left alive.


But Hippolyta, wasn't what happened last



You'll obey my orders. Or have you

turned against me?


No, my queen. Never. We ride immediately.

This time we fight. Move!

[21] Security is always on her mind. Upon making her rounds she comes upon some Herculean supplicants who are visiting a caged Hercules. Lysia, perceiving this to be a problem, clears them from the room and then says to Hercules, "If it were up to me, you wouldn't be caged, you'd be buried."


Could that be Argo the Wonder Horse in an earlier role?

Chilla, yet another Amazon on the loose

[22] Chilla is the Amazon martial arts trainer. She too is concerned with security. Chilla says to her trainees, "We fight because we have to fight. We fight for our way of life. The day we do not fight for who we are and what we can be is the day they take it away from us again as they always have before."


I lost my bird hat.

Ilia, Amazon warrior

[23] Ilia kills Iolaus. This act tells us that Ilia is concerned with security issues. Or she may have acted out of anger when Iolaus, having pinned her against a tree, questions her competence as a warrior by saying, "Hercules, it's a woman."


I hope Ilia doesn't mind I borrowed her bird hat!

Megara, Amazon mother

[24] Megara is the mother of Franco, and Pithus is her paramour. Having a child that she can identify as her own, she is strongly affected by the call to motherhood. She measures her own achievement in terms of children. She is one of the Amazons who seeks Hercules' counsel, asking about whether he has seen her son. That her son has a loving father helps to set her mind at ease.


[25] While Hera controls the Gagarenthan Amazons, Artemis stays out of the affairs of Queen Melosa's Amazons. It is this "non-interference policy" which allows Gabrielle's sisters to reach an higher degree of self-actualization.


I meant right of Cast, not Caste!

Terreis, Amazon princess

[26] Terreis is the archetypal Amazon. The best and brightest of her kind. Her death was tragic and indeed was nearly enough to precipitate a war (HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10)). She speaks to Gabrielle concerning Amazonian education, "Philosophy and history are among the first things taught to Amazon children." Later, as attendants dress Gabrielle in Terreis' clothes we hear:

This is so formal.  How about a Bilious Green Sports Bra instead?

Gabrielle getting Amazonized


Terreis was an Amazon in the purest



She would have made a good leader one



And she didn't think all men and

centaurs were evil, just misguided.


And another good thing about being an Amazon -- perms!

Ephiny, the future of the Amazon Nation

[27] Ephiny reminds one of Lysia. Both are Amazon "absolutists." Their philosophy is based on: "There is the Amazonian way and the wrong way to do something." But Ephiny had the capacity to change. She learned to love her enemy, Phantes. With him she achieved a child and is now concerned with protecting her child's future.


Some guy named Versace designed this bird hat.

Melosa, Amazon Queen

[28] With a war about to begin, Melosa began to shut down the higher concerns on Maslow's pyramid and instead concentrated on security concerns in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10). Xena asks Melosa:


What problems do you have you with



Disgusting animals. You know how they

are. Near the river there is village of

centaurs and men. They want our hunting

areas. And now they've gone too far.

[29] Melosa does have the capacity to change, though. After pinning Krykus to the ground and nearly choking him to death, Melosa chooses to try Krykus in a court of law instead of killing him outright.


Sorry, my heart belongs to a graphics editor.

Solari, Amazon warrior

[30] Lieutenant Commander Worf of Star Trek: The New Generation and Deep Space Nine would admire Solari for her guile. In the Amazon's attempt to delay Velasca from reaching Gabrielle, she is the frontman (frontperson) for a wicked ploy in A NECESSARY EVIL (#38). Solari and several other Amazons pretend to capture Ephiny and force Ephiny to kneel in front of Velasca. As Velasca steps forward to exact her revenge on Ephiny, Velasca steps into a carefully hidden pit trap. There is no doubt that Solari is competent.


I'll be back after I waste that Buffy chick!

Velasca, Warrior Queen Wannabe and Future Goddess

[31] Banished but now returned, Ephiny tells Gabrielle in THE QUEST (#37) that Velasca wrested the Amazon queenhood from Melosa by killing her. She also tells Gabrielle that Velasca's mother was killed in the first war with the centaurs. Now Velasca wants to take the centaur lands across the river. Velasca tells Gabrielle her intentions:


I know how anxious you must be to get

home. The last thing you need right now

is this right of caste business. The

mask of Melosa will be retired and the

new mask of the queen will be offered to

you. All you have to do to decline is

hand it to me.


And make you the new queen?


I'm already queen. This is just

ceremony. Gabrielle, you have neither

the training nor the birthright to claim

the position. I do. It belongs to me.


I'll think about it.


You do that. Think hard. Make sure you

understand destiny. I do. And I am the

only one to return the Amazons to


Velasca feels she no longer belongs to Artemis, since the goddess neglected the Amazons. Velasca felt her prayers unanswered, prayers asking Artemis to return the Amazons to greatness.


I don't dare take a deep breath right now!

And I saw myself leading a nation of Amazons in my Maidenform Bra

[32] Gabrielle has no pretensions with respect to power. Like Hercules she answers "the call of need." Gabrielle went with Xena when she needed her [SINS OF THE PAST (#01)]. She defended her village when it needed her [THE PRODIGAL (#18). She sought to rescue Meleager when he needed her [THE EXECUTION (#46)]. The Amazon's had a need of Gabrielle in THE QUEST (#37) and with Xena's death, Gabrielle chose the mask of the Amazon queen. These episodes highlight just how special Gabrielle is. She is so very close to being completely self-actualized.

I have a strange desire to wear this in Louisiana during Mardis Gras.

Gabrielle pondering the duties and responsibilities of an Amazon Queen.
You may download an 12 second (802K) .avi file of this scene by clicking here.

[33] Witness the "mask and dagger test" that she gave to Velasca in THE QUEST (#37). The test was to see if Velasca was fully self-actualized, the prime requirement for an Amazon queen. Velasca failed when she reached for the dagger first. Velasca felt that she needed the protection of the dagger. According to Maslow she is deficient in security. This also shows Velasca's quest for power. She wanted to make Melosa's Amazons powerful enough to make herself feel secure. (Unfortunately, this mirrors Xena's attitude--at least at the beginning of her quest for power.)

Now guess which hand has the... DOH!

Gabrielle testing Velasca's true motives

[34] Gabrielle has this exchange with Terreis in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10):


It is a man's world Gabrielle, not

because it should be, but because we let

them have it. It's based on a woman's





The Amazon world is based on truth, on a

woman's individual strength.


Well, I'm all for that. I've always

considered myself a single-minded


[35] Gabrielle gains a critical insight and confirms her nearness to complete self-actualization.


I'm Rizzo.  I mean Xena!

Xena, Warrior Princess

[36] Xena is familiar with Amazonian ways. She has dealt with Amazons before. It is implied in HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10) that Xena's Amazons were not of Queen Melosa's village. Ephiny tries to draw her out on the subject after being saved by Xena from a centaur. After being swung out of harm's way by Xena, Ephiny says, "You sure you're not an Amazon? Very few people know that escape." Xena obviously has a knowledge of Amazon customs. As Melosa orders the death of Phantes, Xena says, "Queen Melosa, I demand the challenge." Xena knows Amazon traditions and law.

[37] Xena's Achilles' heel is her self-esteem. Her past has a nasty way of haunting her. As Xena and Gabrielle stand overlooking the valley of Cirra at the beginning of DESTINY (#36), Gabrielle tries to comfort Xena. She compares Xena to the now verdant valley, implying that time heals all wounds. Xena tells Gabrielle that she must ride into the village to try to understand what happened, to learn what she must do to atone for her sins. As Xena enters the village, she is nearly overwhelmed by violent psychic emanations chronicling the attack on Cirra. The ghastly vision is too much for Xena. Barely able to think, she flees the ruined town and the searing memories.

[38] All the other corners of Xena' self-actualization triangle are filled in. Gabrielle took her as a friend when Amphipolis rejected her. Xena mended her relationship with her mother [SINS OF THE PAST (#01)]; Darius the Trojan War refugee [CHARIOTS OF WAR (#02)]; Elkton the mystic [DREAMWORKER (#04)]; and Tyldus the centaur [HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10)] to name a few. In comparison, Callisto has no one.


I thought you'd *never* find me to do that interview!

Callisto, Warrior Pest

[39] Would Callisto fit into Amazonian society? Could she find redemption in such a society? Or would she be banned like Velasca? Callisto's value system might be outside the pyramid all together. She has no safety concerns. Her group of mercenaries are simply a means to an end. She cold-bloodedly kills Theodorus, her second-in-command, in INTIMATE STRANGER (#31). She does not seem belong anywhere; not in prison, not even death. She tells Gabrielle in A NECESSARY EVIL (#38) that she doesn't feel much anymore, only bits and pieces. Furthermore, what has Callisto achieved? She still has yet to kill her hated enemy, Xena.


[40] Why is Amazonian culture so attractive? It is the quality of the individuals it generates. A fully self actualized Amazon is intent on completing all aspects of herself. While she may not realize it, what she is doing is filling in all the corners of Maslow's pyramid. All of Amazon society focuses on this goal. One sees it in emphasis on education, philosophy, and physical training. I am not stating that being an Amazon guarantees one will become fully self-actualized. Rather, Amazons appear to achieve a greater portion of Maslow's Hierarchy in their lives than the other cultures portrayed in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

[41] David F. Ricks says in an article on Maslow from Grollier's Multimedia Encyclopedia:

In the relatively rare individuals in whom all lower needs are satisfied a new motive can be observed, the drive for self-actualization -- becoming everything that one is capable of becoming. Interest in higher levels of motivation led Maslow to the study of self-actualized people, who differ from most people in being unusually healthy psychologically; having marked ability to free themselves from stereotypes; and perceiving everyday life realistically and accepting it without defensiveness. Self- actualizing people appear to have, or to have had, "peak experiences" of insight, joy, or intense awareness.

[42] How does this pertain to us? Amazonian culture can provide a model for our own behavior. Keep in mind the lesson of Hippolyta's girdle.

Fill In Your Own Pyramid
[43] Fill in all the corners of your own pyramid. We all know that in our own psychological makeup there are a few undeveloped areas. But we can change that. We can front a more aggressive attitude in dealing with our individual problems and the world in general, an Amazonian attitude, an Amazonian outlook on life. We can become self-actualized.

Change Ourselves
[44] Develop the ability to change. By cultivating this mind set within ourselves, our goals for self-actualization are much more easily achieved and our chances with love that much better.


[45] Another competing philosophy I had considered in developing this paper was based on Nicollo Machiavelli's The Prince. Machiavelli, a civil servant for several rulers, lived in Renaissance Italy. This was a time when fractious city states owed allegiance only to the Pope. The contentious behavior of these tiny provincial principalities is mirrored in the ancient Greek world we see in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The Prince was a political and military treatise suggesting how the rulers of these city states might succeed in their endeavors. The gist of The Prince might be summed up as follows: you must be ready to sell your soul for your county if you wish to be its leader.

[46] Application of this philosophy to the characters in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys suggests that Velasca and Xena, in her old days, are outstanding examples of leaders employing Machiavellian leadership practises as outlined in The Prince. If Hera, in her attempt to control the Amazons, had succeeded Hippolyta's girdle would have consisted of contrived Machiavellian ruthlessness. Instead the most successful characters in the Xenaverse attempt to achieve self-actualization -- they have found the secret of Hippolyta's girdle or Maslow's Hierarchy.



The rules are: No small talk. Just sex.



This feels like heaven.

[Even later.]


We...didn't get around to a lot of



Hey, I paid for an hour.


At three you have an appointment with

some Amazons about a girdle.


The war against men is never over,



[47] Alcmene, Hercules' mother, asked her husband Amphitryon to avenge the death of her brothers. While Amphitryon was away, Zeus visited Alcmene. Upon his return, Amphitryon visited his wife. This resulted in twins, Hercules and Iphicles.

[48] Hercules provided 50 sons for King Thespius by impregnating 49 of the king's 50 daughters in one night.

[49] After he died, Hercules resided in Olympus where he married Hebe, daughter of Zeus and Hera. Hebe was responsible for serving the gods ambrosia.


[50] Amazons are from the Anatolia region of Greece.

[51] They fought against the Greeks in the Trojan War. (Hmmm? I only counted one Amazon princess. Stories sure do get blown out of proportion when a bard tells them.)

[52] Hippolyta is Ares' daughter.

[53] Theseus had a son by Hippolyta.

[54] Bellorophon and Pegasus fought the Amazons.

[55] Dionysus (Bacchus) conquered them.

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